With Mandarin to be incorporated into the South Africa Basic Education curriculum in 2016, DUT, in partnership with the Education Division in the South African Chinese Embassy, hosted the 2015 South Africa Mandarin Teaching Seminar.
The seminar was held at the Coastlands Hotel Umhlanga on Sunday, 31 May 2015. The purpose of the seminar was for the Basic Education Department to get a feel of what the existing Conficius institutes in the country were doing in their institutions where they are based.
Titled: Role, functions and challenges of Mandarin teaching institutions in South Africa under the new trend of Mandarin being incorporated into South Africa Basic Education system, the seminar was also aimed at providing a platform for Mandarin teachers, heads of Confucius institutes and Chinese and SA departments of education to share ideas and experience in Mandarin teaching whilst preparing for January 2016.
“We, as the department (of basic education) invited the directors, teachers and language specialists to elaborate on the challenges, roles, functions and implementation of teaching Mandarin in the schools and universities,” said Dr Aaron Nkosi, Learning Space Manager at the Department of Basic Education.
In March 2015, the Department of Basic Education approved Mandarin to be part of the School Curriculum as of January 2016. This will allow pupils the chance of learning the language as an official school subject. The language will be offered to pupils from grade 4 to 12 as a second language. Mandarin is a standard Chinese language mostly used in Beijing and is the official language of China and Taiwan, as well as one of the four official languages in Singapore.
Not all SA schools will offer Mandarin however. “Mandarin will only be introduced to those schools fit enough to offer the language,” said Dr Nkosi, adding that it was the role of the heads of department to identify schools that can and will be able to accommodate this. “Schools will apply. It is the responsibility of the regional HoDs to accept and decline those applications. The Minister (of Basic Education) cannot decide on who will offer the language since she does not go to each and every school,” said Dr Nkosi.
Some of the challenges that were echoed during the seminar were the shortage of Mandarin teachers in Chinese culture, lack of support from either regional or provincial departments of education, student easily forgetting the language once they are no longer exposed to learning it as well as Chinese Mandarin teachers struggling to get visas to come or stay longer in South Africa.
Wang Jianzhou, Chinese Consul-General in Durban, said as the number of Mandarin learners continued to grow in South Africa, this provided a good opportunity for both Chinese people and South Africans to understand one another, not only in the spoken language but each other’s cultures. “The growing number of learners showing interest in learning Mandarin makes as a turning point in the achievement of the relationship between the two nations. I urge the Department of Education and institutions with Mandarin centres to continue giving support to CIs,” he said.
Currently, Mandarin is offered at six SA universities, including DUT which is the only one providing this offering in KwaZulu-Natal.
Song Bo from the Education Division in the South African Chinese Embassy, said his unit was impressed by the work done by CIs and urged all parties involved to work together in growing the relationship between SA and China. “South Africans have shown a growing interest in strengthening the relationship between South Africa and China. It is now in the hands of the departments (of basic education) to play their roles in making sure that there is support and growth,” he said.
– Noxolo Memela
Pictured: Dr Eddie Chiabo Fu, DUT CI Director and Dr Aaron Nkosi, SA Department of Basic Education’s Learning Space Manager.